Va-Va-Villainess: Rhonda Fleming

Published January 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Rhonda Inferno

She played feisty yet loyal lovers in a series of ‘50s action and adventure pieces like Yankee Pasha and Gunfight at O.K. Corral. Bob Hope also called upon her extravagant sense of humor in such projects as The Great Lover and Alias Jesse James. Her lush looks and rare beauty worked for her in other ways as well, giving the glorious Rhonda Fleming a delightfully tangible way to embody perfect visions of calculating evil.

InfernoLobbyEschewing her initial naivete – she and her mother had to look up what a nymphomaniac was when she was cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound – Fleming brought vivid life to a number of noir vixens. 1953’s Inferno capitalized on the 3D phase while also giving her the excuse to bring what was possibly her most evil character to the celluloid universe. As Geraldine Carson, this red headed goddess viciously plots to murder her husband, played with gruff humanity by eternally sympathetic tough guy Robert Ryan. Thus, her dry and dusty downfall here was relished by movie lovers everywhere.

rhonda-fleming-the-crowded-skyThe suave Efrem Zimbalist Jr. also was dealt a calculating blow when dealing with Fleming’s adulterous Cheryl Heath in The Crowded Sky. As a pilot facing a deadly incident, as this film is a precursor to the all star disaster films of the ‘70s, Zimbalist’s character also must deal with the emotional fallout of Cheryl’s heartless manipulations. Viewers, therefore, are not surprised when the film’s fadeout reveals his intents to leave her behind, no matter Fleming’s seemingly irresistible devious lusciousness.

Rhonda Gunfight


Horror Hall of Fame:


Besides her compelling work with Hitchcock in Spellbound, Fleming brought a steady heart and calm demeanor to her portrayal of the loyal yet doomed Blanche in 1946’s gothic horror The Spiral Staircase.

www.rhondafleming.com

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sofia Shinas

Published February 23, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Sofia Shinas Crow

Best known for beautifully essaying the doomed love between her Shelly and Brandon Lee’s icon Eric Draven in The Crow, Sofia Shinas also added her unique mystique to such genre projects as The Outer Limits reboot and the sexually charged horror anthology series The Hunger.

Nicely, her talents extended into the world of pop artistry. Her fun debut recording produced its share of perky, love charged anthems including the earworm worthy One Last Kiss.

Fortunately, Shinas is still providing tuneful energy for music lovers and genre enthusiasts worldwide at https://www.facebook.com/Sofia-Shinas-fans-1421026704808949/.

Sofia One Last Kiss

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Sharkbait Retro Village: Night of Terror

Published February 23, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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When you a injure a limb, a reliable cast is sometimes necessary. But…when you watch an early 70s television film thriller, a really good cast is always a necessity.

Thankfully, 1972’s Night of Terror delivers with a creative team that glows as brightly as the greasy smile on costar Chuck Conners’ face. Though, I imagine there are a few out there who would rather break an arm then be forced to watch this almost 40 year old tribute to the virginal heroine in distress.

The plucky damsel here is played by television stalwart-nighttime soap opera icon Donna Mills. Before finding eternal fame as the manipulative Abby on Knots Landing, Mills was a prime time movie of the week regular. With credits including Haunts of the Very Rich and Play Misty for Me already under her belt, this blonde dynamo knew how to deliver up the surprise and anxiety that is the bread and butter of her role here. As a kindly art teacher accidentally caught in the crosshairs of Connors’ mob assassin, Mills’ Linda Daniel glows with dewy worry throughout the proceedings and the actress’s traditional Hollywood blondness is the perfect fit for this almost saintly character’s twisted trajectory. 

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Nicely, she is joined on her journey by many familiar faces, making this exercise in fraught dynamics a truly enjoyable one for lovers of the old school celeb estetic. Bewitched regulars Mary Grace Canfield and Agnes Moorehead show up as a friendly cleaning lady and the physical therapist who treats Daniel’s temporary emotional and physical paralysis, a plot point that shares similarities to such fare as The Spiral Staircase, Wait Until Dark and many other gothic shockers.

John Karlen, then best known for his work with Dan Curtis, meanwhile gives up a frantic appearance as Connors’ first victim. Other notables include esteemed character actor Martin Balsam, soap opera hunk William Gray Espy (AKA the first Snapper on The Young and the Restless) and what even appears to be Julie Kavner in a dialogue free exchange as a nurse attending to the distraught Mills.

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Perhaps most interestingly, the quirky and irreplaceable Catharine Burns shows up in the first act as Mills/Daniels’ doomed friend. Always a significantly enjoyable presence, Burns was best known for her devastating, Academy Award nominated work in Last Summer. Her success there, though, did not assure her a major career and she wound up doing smaller television work before fading away from the industry completely. Thus, her sudden death in 2019 was not discovered by the media for almost a year. Nicely, a quick YouTube search finds her here living forever young with all her special talents intact and ready for every agreeable viewer’s consumption.

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Virginia Bruce

Published February 17, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

VB Invisible Woman

If I had been an old Hollywood diva, I would have wanted the career of Virginia Bruce. An important figure in the world of Universal Horror due to her pert and powerful essaying of the leading role in The Invisible Woman, Bruce also worked with such notables as Jimmy Stewart, William Powell, James Cagney and Abbott and Costello.

Significantly, while trying to earnestly woo Stewart in Born to Dance, she also introduced the Cole Porter classic I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

Pretty much fading from the screen by the late ‘40s, this silver streaked celluloid wonder still left behind a legacy of dreamy magnificence, permanently drifting beneath the fantasies of old school movie lovers worldwide.

Virigina Bruce

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Book Review: Always, Lana

Published February 16, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Always-Lana

Its the 16th of February. Candy hearts are half off at the Dollar Tree and the hint of consumerist love still drenches the air. Thus Always, Lana may be the perfect late weekend read. Written by Taylor Pero, a bisexual back-up singer who catered to both Lana Turner’s business and boudoir needs for 10 years, this slim tome details the latter day diva glazed romantic and professional antics of one of MGM’s comeliest stars.

Lana PersecutionHistorically, I was first introduced to this book as a soap opera obsessed 14 year old. At the time, Lana was appearing on Falcon Crest and her character’s onscreen combativeness with Jane Wyman’s matriarchal lead fueled my love for show business. Thus, I asked for a bio on Turner for Christmas that year. With unknowing prescience, this was the volume that my parents picked out for me. (Of course, it very well may have been the only option available at the tiny Zayres book department in Jamestown, NY.) While I found myself both intrigued and repelled by Pero’s sexual exploits, its tales of Turner’s adventures on the summer stock circuit and infrequent film projects have remained as wispy, silver smoked memories in my consciousness over the decades since.

Revisiting the memoir this Valentine’s week, Pero’s economic exploitiveness here actually reads with a sense of sympathy and understanding for the star that he devoted himself to. Her eternal tardiness, precise self focus and obsession with her appearance are explained as being a product of a studio system that prized beauty and self deception over emotional and spiritual growth. The author also nicely details Turner’s humor and her ability to deal with the multiple disappointments that life brought down upon her shoulders. Lana Turner Persecution aka Terror of Sheba

Nicely, one disenchantment that is given prime focus here is Persecution (AKA The Terror of Sheba), the one true Gothic Horror (in the Baby Jane tradition) that Turner appeared in. This project is usually given little import in other treatments of her filmography, but with Always, Lana it gets almost a full chapter. The author chronicles everything from the year long inception of the project to the shimmering star’s on set battles to the aborted reactions to this much troubled film upon its official release.

As with similar writings, this is a quick read and may be worth exploring for genre fans for this particular aspect alone.


Horror Hall of Fame:

Turner was a glimmering presence in the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and she always spoke fondly of co-stars Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman for instilling her with a sense of professional confidence). She also gave breakdowns a groovy, psychedelic glow in the 1969 cult classic The Big Cube.


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lana dr

 

Music to Make Horror Movies By – June Havoc

Published February 9, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

June Havoc

Sporting one of the most unique life resumes for a performer, the unstoppable June Havoc was a vaudevillian, playwright, film actress and the owner-landlord of an entire town during her lifetime. Perhaps best known as the inspiration for the character of Baby June in the classic musical Gypsy, a theatrical offering she always emphasized was a fable not reality, Havoc also gave vampirism a distinguished glow in Larry Cohen’s A Return to Salem’s Lot. June Havoc Salems

Of course, her vampishly dynamic performances in a series of Hollywood musicals left quite an impression on a generation of young men, as well.

Sinful Cindy Lou from Sing Your Worries Away paired her with the rubbery Buddy Ebsen and comic legend Patsy Kelly.

Meanwhile, The Man With the Big Sombrero from Hi Diddle Diddle allowed her to sonically compete with herself.

The maverick Havoc, who died in 2010 at the age of 97, actually has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was nominated for a Tony Award as the director of Marathon ’33, a play that she also wrote.

June Havoc signed

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Va-Va-Villainess: Jeanette Nolan

Published February 6, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Jeanette Nolan Big Heat

Very few performers have been able to achieve the cold, lascivious evil that Jeanette Nolan is able to generate in the classic 1953 noir The Big Heat. As Bertha Duncan, the conniving wife of a corrupt police official, this distinguished performer uses steely silence and manipulative tears to ensure her character’s chance at a life of wealth and opulence. An unmoving witness to suicide and murder, Duncan is ultimately one of the iciest dames ever to be featured in dark crime cinema, a testament to Nolan’s sophisticated skills. Jeanette Nolan Big Heat 2

Not surprisingly, Nolan’s first major onscreen role was Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ adaptation of the classic Shakespearean piece Macbeth. Her work in The Big Heat, though subtle, definitely carries shades of the poetically operatic, earning herself the distinction of being one of the finest actresses who has ever committed herself to the celluloid art form.



Horror Hall of Fame:

Nolan’s long lasting career included many genre credits. She brought a vibrant glow to 1966’s Chamber of Horrors and a similar spark along with a parade of outrageous hair pieces to 1965’s My Blood Runs Cold (pictured). She added a bit more serious contemplation to such television anthology series as The Twilight Zone, Thriller and Circle of Fear, as well.



Jeanette Nolan My Blood

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: The McGuire Sisters

Published February 2, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The McGuire Sistes

Their lovely harmonies have found their way into multiple films and televisions shows. Indeed, what would projects like Porky’s II: The Next Day, Mad Men, Come Back to the Five and Dime and (mild terror nudge here) White Noise 2: The Light be without such McGuire Sisters’ songs as Sincerely, Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight and Sugar Time?

1965’s Right Now!, their final album, even featured a bit of a rock and roll edge. The song Truer Than You (from that release) fits more firmly in multi-tracked Patti Page terrority,  but is nonetheless relatable to anyone who has experienced the horrors of the heart.

The worthy recipients of multiple Hall of Fame awards, this familial trio is represented today with solo strength by surviving sister Phyllis.

The McGuire Sisters, Phyllis, Dorothy and Christine

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